YouTube won a big victory over Viacom today in the biggest copyright infringement lawsuit in history.
U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton of New York did not support Viacom's $1 billion claim that “safe harbor” protection under the DMCA did not apply to YouTube, granting Google's motion for summary judgment.
The case was a critical interpretation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, and will be seen as a guide for whether web sites are responsible for user-generated content. Viacom claimed that YouTube was responsible.
“To let knowledge of a generalized practice of infringement in the industry, or of a proclivity of users to post infringing materials, impose responsibility on service providers to discover which of their users’ postings infringe a copyright would contravene the structure and operation of the DMCA,” the judge said.
"This is an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other. We're excited about this decision and look forward to renewing our focus on supporting the incredible variety of ideas and expression that billions of people post and watch on YouTube every day around the world," said Google vice president and general counsel Kent Walker.
Viacom has said it will appeal the decision.
Viacom argued that Google allowed copyrighted content on YouTube to keep the site popular with users. Movies, songs and TV shows owned by Viacom ended up on YouTube after users repeatedly uploaded them.
Questions that come to mind: what about all of the individual web sites and blogs that embedded YouTube videos in their site? Are they liable for copyright infringement or royalties, or is that YouTube's bad? Also, who's responsible on the YouTube side, the uploader or YouTube? That sounds like the P2P thing all over again, when both the P2P peeps and the uploaders were both pursued by the copyright holders from the RIAA. Plus, now there's a legal precedent, or at least a practiced negotiation history to look back at in this time around.